He completed the last stage with the patience of a champion. When he arrived at the finish line he was alone, and so he headed to the parc fermé, where his team was waiting for him. It was then that Marc Coma, from Avià, Barcelona, got a well-deserved round of applause, and he finally allowed himself to smile like he used to. He had won his fourth Dakar Rally, but had suffered a great deal more than other years. He was desperate to be reunited with his two-year-old son Lluís, whose voice he hadn't heard since he left Spain ahead of the event.
Question. You have been more serious than ever. What was the hardest part about this year's Dakar?
Answer. There were days when I was genuinely suffering. I got sick, the race was incredibly tough and I was under no illusions that I needed to preserve all of the energy reserves I could muster. The race is incredibly demanding mentally and I knew that if I wasn't in the right condition then I could make a mistake at any time. That left me very stressed out. It's not that I was scared, but rather that I wasn't comfortable and I was very much aware that I wasn't 100 percent. That's why I was so serious, distant, and reserved.
Q. Have you had any doubts or fears since you got injured in October 2012?
A. The truth is no. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by highly professional people, who give me all the confidence I need. I haven't had any doubts. I was expecting a race like the one I encountered: open, difficult, and one where I had to fight right up to the end.
Q. How did your body respond to the challenge?
A. Apart from getting sick, I would say that my body reacted very well. I was able to perform, in spite of the fever and the sore throat. I was really OK. But I had a lot of faith. Before I started I could see myself on the podium; whether you win or not is a whole other thing. There are always little things in a race that end up deciding it.
Q. With the new structure of the Dakar, what's it like racing without a support rider?
A. There were two KTMs on the podium, so the formula has been successful. Even though he wasn't a support rider, I have to personally thank Jordi (Viladoms) for his help. He helped me more than you could imagine. The days when I was ill he was hugely supportive for me; also on the marathon stages, with the mechanical stuff.
There were two KTMs on the podium, so the formula has been successful"
Q. You fought for the win against a rider from another generation, someone who is seven years younger than you. What are the differences between you and him?
A. Joan (Barreda) is quicker than anyone else. That is abundantly clear, and he has demonstrated it time and time again. It's hard for me to say how we are different, but you always try to make your experience count. Although logically the combination of Barreda and Honda could have been a winner.
Q. What role does experience play?
A. This is a race where experience serves for a great deal. Before you can win you need to have gone through a very long learning process.
Q. Is this win explained by your mental strength?
A. I wouldn't know what to tell you. But I do know that at KTM we have run a race thinking a lot about ourselves, about how to avoid mistakes, more so than controlling our rivals.
Q. Is it tough for you being so far away from your family?
A. What happens is that you try to distance yourself slightly from anything that could distract you from the race, and that is one of the things that can easily take your mind off the job in hand. So you try and spend two weeks closed off in your own little world, with your routines. One of the battles that we have is to try and make yourself act as much as possible like a computer.